By MARYSSA MCFADDEN
Business networking has become an increasingly popular tool in the past few years – a way for business owners to gather together, exchange ideas and garner interest in their companies. It is also a tool for applicants to meet employers in their desired field and build a contact list which could help lead to an interview or even a job in the future.
Now, Waterloo Region has taken business networking to the next level with the help of a local business owner and a hashtag.
It is a virtual networking event for business owners, potential applicants and students in and around Waterloo Region called #WRTalk.
The event was created by Mallory Manchur earlier this year after she saw similar hashtags, which were used on Twitter, to gather people together to talk about specific issues or ideas.
“I originally geared it towards small businesses thinking it would be a great networking tool. However, I soon discovered we had attracted charitable and community events,” Manchur said.
The way it worked was easy. People were to tweet an introduction about their self or their business using #WRTalk between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 1.
The number of people who participated on the first night was much higher than expected.
Over 10,000 ideas and opinions were tweeted and the number has climbed ever since.
In Manchur’s opinion, this was due largely to the vast target audience which #WRTalk is geared toward.
“It’s great for students who might be looking for new places in the region to check out or looking to network with potential employers and people in their chosen fields,” she said.
“The event has connected some people with service providers they were looking for and another business told me they got an applicant for one of their job openings because of the event.
The Wednesday night event took off quickly and, although it is still new, #WRTalk has had no issues with getting local business owners to join.
“It hasn’t been too difficult finding participants because I think people really like the idea. It seems to be catching on and doing a little better each week,” Manchur said.
The event has gained popularity ever since taking off on Oct. 1. Not only has there been more students, clients and job searchers who have shown interest, but each week also brings more ideas, opinions and additional business owners which helps to extend the #WRTalk network even further. Even the candidates for Waterloo’s municipal election signed on to explain their platforms and exchange ideas.
A possible reason for why #WRTalk reached thousands so quickly is the flexibility which many networking events do not have.
“My favourite part was I didn’t have to pay anything unlike some networking events, I didn’t have to RSVP and I didn’t have to miss work,” said Summer Anstee, who took part in the first #WRTalk event.
Manchur said, after speaking to people who joined her event, many had the same opinion.
“Lots of our participants have said they lead such busy lives it’s not possible to get out and attend networking events,” she said. “The #WRTalk tweets reach thousands of eyes every week and the best part is that you can tweet from wherever you are at no cost.”
The next #WRTalk event will take place this Wednesday, Nov. 12 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will continue every Wednesday evening thereafter.